Since being earmarked by the New Media Consortium (NMC) as a key focus for junior and secondary schools, the use of 3D printing has become a leading trend in Kindergarten to Year 12 education across Australia. But problems can arise when responsibility for running 3D capable design and printing equipment is left in the hands of an enthusiast within an environment where such technological spending is often seen as discretionary. So, Datacom Education was asked to find a way to bring easy-to-use, new technology to a group of schools with a shared need yet limited budget. A successful outcome would go some way to easing the growing equity gap in Australian schools, encourage mutual teaching support and expose whole communities of students to cutting-edge technology.
Datacom Education proposed a scaled environment, a cluster, that would allow multiple schools to contribute to a tailored training programme - 3D Printing: Reimagine Collaboration and Creation. This meant that each school would gain access to otherwise unaffordable technology in a highly-collaborative environment featuring an online learning portal and the professional support needed to equip teachers with the knowledge and expertise to enable consistency in teaching and enhanced student outcomes. A centralised online platform is also available to store all educational deliverables while being accessible to each participating school.
Installation of this program was conducted over a 10-week period in late 2015 in partnership with Makers Empire, the 3D design software, and the online platform, myEd. At the same time, the 14 participating teachers underwent a professional learning programme to ensure a consistent level of expertise and knowledge.
Participation in the programme cost each school AU$2,000, which included software licensing for 100 students for one year with the option of covering all students for a further AU$500. Printers were not included, but are available from Datacom should a school decide to purchase them.
Once installed, teachers from all schools collaborated in the creation of an educational pathway which involves a challenging quest for multiple learning activities that could be enhanced by the use of 3D printing. One such challenge was the design of a Big Bad Wolf-proof home that combined literacy and numeracy skills with elements of their science curriculum. The students worked in groups to collectively read the stories, select materials, measure and design their homes, and then scale them down for 3D printing.
As a result of this approach, teachers are now sharing such ideas and content across schools which are then accessible to teachers not involved in the programme. In this way, new teaching approaches and learning possibilities using new technology have been made available to every teacher and administrator in the participating schools.
“This new learning enables staff to embed technology authentically into future-focused teaming and learning practices. It allows staff and students to innovate and collaborate on projects and create real tangible solutions through the printing and design process.”
Michael Strahan, Principal, Curran Public School